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Daily Digest: From Field to Felonies to Fine-Tuned Targeting

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, October 9 2008

The Web on the Candidates

  • The Six Million Questions Question: The enormous number was breathtaking: six million people sent in questions through the Internet for Tom Brokaw to pose to John McCain and Barack Obama during Tuesday night's presidential town hall in Nashville. Breathtaking -- and entirely wrong. The actual number turns out to be, according to MySpace, the online partner of the Commission on Presidential Debates, just over 25,000. We've done some digging and found out how a casual mention at a luncheon morphed into a nugget of bad news that spread across the globe, from New York to Australia to Tajikistan and beyond. #

  • Twitter Election Protection Tagging Update: Building on what seems to be growing momentum behind using Twitter as an election protection tool, online organizer Jon Pincus has detailed possible standardized tags that expand the geographic tags proposed on techPresident to include incident type, alert type, and party information. This is an idea with legs; no less than Joe Trippi has said "this could really work." We're reaching out to other groups and allies and should have some updates soon. Stay tuned. #

The Candidates on the Web

  • Obama Organizers Leaving It on the Field: New Organizing Institute co-founder and president Zack Exley has a remarkable first-hand report on the Obama campaign's field operation from on the ground in central and southwest Ohio. Calling what's happening in the field "what many netroots-oriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade," Zack describes an operation that's both top-down and bottom-up. Based on locals, the Obama approach doesn't try to shove square pegs into round holes. Instead, it taps and develops people's unique abilities and interests -- creating something potentially sustainable after election day. Zack's lengthy piece really is a remarkable work of, as our Micah Sifry calls it, "engaged journalism." So pour yourself a second (or third) cup of coffee and give it a read. #

  • Is Felony Charge Warranted in Palin Email Case?: University of Tennessee student David Kernell has now been indicted for logging into Sarah Palin's Yahoo! email account and posting its contents to the forum site 4chan. (And as if breaking into a vice presidential nominee's email isn't enough to make this digital privacy case newsworthy, Kernell is the son of a Democratic state legislator in Tennessee.) Kernell's facing up to five years in jail. But as Fred Stutzman discusses on techPresident, some legal minds are startled by how what appeared to be a misdemeanor offense turned into a felony -- without, it seems, any explanation by authorities of what additional crime Kernell was guilty of, as the more serious charge requires. On the Volokh Conspiracy, University of Colorado law professor and specialist in computer crime law Paul Ohm offers his succinct opinion: "Strange, strange, strange indictment." #

  • "We're Looking to Build an Ecosystem": That's Vijay Ravindran, CTO of the progressive data firm Catalist, as quoted in a new piece by Washingtonian's Garrett Graff on the modern state of political datamining and data management. Catalist's modest goal, reports a company official, is to compile "a complete record of every American over the age of 18." Aiding that quest is an advancement in data best practices which tags every citizen with a unique ID that they can carry for life. The Democratic Party has come a long way since the days when, as Garrett colorfully describes, its databases were riddled with junk and errors. And advocates for the sort of microtargeting good data enables say that profiling to detect political inclinations is enormously powerful. With it, they say, campaigns and causes pluck a much-coveted blue household or neighborhood out of a sea of red -- or, of course, vice versa. Skeptics, however, think that past a certain granularity, microtargeting voters is hooey. After November 4th, there's going to be a great deal of interest in figuring out who's more on target. #

  • Is Tech World Obamaland?: Using donor data from ten large tech companies as a representative sample, ZDNet's Robin Harris finds that tech employees support Obama to McCain at a rate of nine to one. For example, 96% of all Googlers who made contributions to one of those two candidates chose Obama. Similarly, 98% of Apple employees went the Senator from Illinois's way. Still, only 174 Applers chipped in to the coffers of either major party presidential candidate, so there's some untapped political potential in the hills of Cupertino. One company where McCain did quite well, nearly reaching parity with Obama was EMC. Never heard of it? Me neither. Turns out it's a fairly major S&P 500 data storage solution company based in eastern Massachusetts. #

TechCongress and Beyond

  • Congrats.org!: Our former Associate Editor Josh Levy is now Change.org Managing Editor Josh Levy, and Change.org has just launched an exciting new incarnation as a social blogging network. For a look at what motivated the relaunch and where Change.org goes from here, give a watch to this video of Josh explaining the changes. Newsweek's Brian Braiker has an excellent profile of the new Change.org in which he frames it as a mechanism for harnessing the energy and passion of this election towards achieving long-term social goals. We're biased, yes. But we think the new Change.org is breaking some exciting ground in wired activism. #